CHENNAI: The hearing was swift and the decision 'forthwith'. The Supreme Court did not need much time to conclude that the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) term was over in 2020 but the elected members continued because a 2017 Delhi High Court order was stayed by the SC.
The Delhi HC had annulled the 2016 AIFF elections because it was not held in accordance with the sports code.
The SC, through an interim order in 2017, constituted a Committee of Administrators (CoA) to formulate the AIFF constitution in consonance with the National Sports Code and Model Guidelines and ensuring the constitution of the executive committee and for holding elections.
The two-member CoA was former Election Commission chief, SM Qureshi, and former India player, Bhaskar Ganguly.
The two, according to Ganguly, submitted the draft constitution in 2020 to the court. It took two more years for the May 18 hearing that constituted another CoA adding one more person as the head: Anil R Dave, a former SC judge.
The AIFF's executive committee was finally asked to hand over charge to the CoA with immediate effect and the due course of the election process would begin. But before that, the draft constitution would once again be distributed for any objections or suggestions by all stakeholders. The entire election process would be under the supervision of the CoA.
In the last few months, this is the second time a CoA has been appointed. Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) too had been dissolved and a CoA has been put in place over selection issues. But AIFF is not alone. Most of the federations don't follow the sports code in letter and spirit.
Senior advocate Rahul Mehra has filed an affidavit in the Delhi High Court highlighting this. Even the sports ministry, while granting National Sports Federations recognition in 2020, had highlighted this and wanted them to bring their constitutions in line with the sports code.
Even as SC took a swift decision in the AIFF case, there are few cases that are still undecided. Take for example Equestrian Federation of India (EFI). Despite challenges in court that they don't adhere to sports code and sports ministry giving them special status (peculiar nature) yet their hearing is still on.
It seems constitution of CoA is the norm. Hearing in Rahul Mehra's petition challenging Indian Olympic Association's (IOA) constitution and its election has concluded but the order is reserved.
Interestingly, the first petition was filed way back in 2010 and there were subsequent petitions over the years too. The order would have an over-reaching effect in Indian sports. The IOA's term got over in December 2021 and in all likelihood another set of CoA would be established under whose supervision the constitution would be brought in line with the sports code and later the election would take place. It needs to be seen how the order reads. There could be sweeping changes and it needs to be seen if this would encompass NSFs too.
That brings us to one more point. Is a CoA the answer to all malaise in sports. Perhaps not. There were instances when things don't work either. Archery Association of India (AAI) is an example where the constitution went back and forth in courts before it was finally accepted. Even the Board of Control for Cricket in India, when CoA was appointed, things did not go as well as was expected. The way NSFs function is also unique and not all know about the nuances. Right from holding tournaments, selecting teams to represent India to sending proposals for training to Sports Authority of India (SAI), there needs to be specific expertise. In the end, whether or not CoA succeeds will depend on the cooperation given by the aggrieved party.Appointment of CoAs seems to be the norm. Is IOA next?